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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/21/2008

The Morning Line: 'Zippy' Creator Draws on Real (Pungent) Maryland

By Michael Cavna

I'm occasionally asked how I read "Zippy the Pinhead." Not why I read "Zippy," but literally, HOW I read it. My answer is always some variation of two elements:
1. I toss aside expectations of a traditional comic-strip "progression" to a payoff.
2. I'm always scouring for some Larger Cultural Critique amid the stream of pop references.


When the pinhead circus comes to Maryland. (KFS) Enlarge Comic

Even given my time-worn approach, though, I frankly wasn't sure what to make of creator Bill Griffith's first panel today -- namely, his reference to "the pungent town of Laurel, Maryland." Hard past the fictional town of Dingburg, is Griffith seriously or cheekily having fun at Laurel's expense? (I loosely recall that he's namechecked Laurel before, but not in quite such, um, aromatic fashion.)

Fortunately, Mr. Griffith himself is happy to explain that he has good-spirited fun with Laurel based on reader suggestions:

Laurel has "been noted a number of times in my long-running 'Dingburg' series of Zippy strips," Griffith tells Comic Riffs. "Dingburg is located '17 miles west of Baltimore'---(real) Laurel is a little south of (fictional) Dingburg."

Griffith adds: "You can find out about the 'Real Places' you see in Zippy strips on the Zippy website under the 'Zippy's Roadside Attraction' donut at the top of the" ZIPPY home page.

On Friday, Comic Riffs will take a closer look at one of "Zippy's" real roadside attractions in Maryland. Meantime, we should note that Griffith's book "Welcome to Dingburg" is due out next month.

And if you hunger for a more profound guide to understanding Zippy, we direct you to the cartoonist's own "six-bowling-ball" explanation. Beyond Bill's how-to, though, you're on your own -- which is half the fun of interpreting "Zippy" in the first place.

Our other picks o' the day:

DOING OUR HOMEWORK: We're suckers for comic synergy. Especially when two strips are co-written by the same cartoonist.


If Jeremy can't get his homework done ... (KFS) Enlarge Comic


... perhaps the MacPherson kids can. (KFS) Enlarge Comic

Casting our eyes on "Zits" and "Baby Blues" today, we get a probable glimpse of life inside the Jerry Scott household. Jeremy Duncan and Zoe MacPherson share the same backpack-size burden these days, but true to their respective ages and gender stereotypes, Jeremy the Boy Teen internalizes, while young Zoe bemoans her fate loudly with a Calvin-sized mouth.

Both ring true. Both read right. And both are testament to Jerry Scott's mad skills.

And before moving on, we must note: The Scott-Borgman team is apparently declaring itself hard-line astronomic traditionalists, refusing to acknowledge that Pluto has been downgraded to a "dwarf planet" and that our solar system only has eight planets. Fight the good fight, gentlemen!


Somehow, though, he still writes for the Daily Planet. (KFS) Enlarge Comic

THE 'MOTHER' OF ALL UNDERGARMENTS: Mike Peters draws female anatomy so strikingly odd in today's "Mother Goose," we can only presume that the dark-shirted woman wearing the apparent conical bra is meant as tabloid-y tribute to Madonna (former icon of such fash) as she weathers her newly announced divorce.


There's always the Social Security that is the lottery. (Creators)Enlarge Comic

(And by the by: If Superman's so stupid that he cannot write, what is Mike Peters really saying about the state of journalism at the good ol' Daily Planet? Just sayin'.)

THE FEEL-OUR-PAIN AWARD: Tapping America's collective fiscal distress, today's "Speed Bump" is the funniest single-panel we've seen in days.

Perhaps even the funniest since we last dared glance at our evaporated 401(k). We'd weep if we -- thanks to Mr. Coverly -- couldn't laugh.

By Michael Cavna  | October 21, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Comments

Of course "Zits" counts Pluto as a planet. What comics artist is going to acknowledge the demotion to mere "Kuiper Belt Object" of the only planet that shares its name with a beloved cartoon character?

Posted by: Seismic-2 | October 21, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Deja-vu:

Brewster Rockitt today:
http://wpcomics.washingtonpost.com/client/wpc/tmrkt/

Dilbert 2 weeks ago today:
http://www.chron.com/apps/comics/showComic.mpl?date=2008/10/7&name=Dilbert

Posted by: Seismic-2 | October 21, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I'd have to check the strips to be sure, but yesterday's Fusco Brothers, The Duplex, and one other strip all picked the same day to break the fourth wall and acknowledge that they're cartoons.

Is that as surreal for the cartoonist as it is for the reader?

Posted by: f2 | October 21, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Seismic-2, as I also noticed Brewster was using the same gag as Dilbert from a few weeks ago. I thought the Riffs were all about finding such nuances in the comics?

Posted by: Sebastian | October 21, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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